The singer known as Lorde has had it.
In song after song on the Kiwi star’s debut CD, she surveys the people around her with a sneer or a yawn. “Everyone is competing for a love they won’t receive,” she drawls.
“I don’t think about death/but it’s okay if you do,” she shrugs at a later point. At another point she deadpans, “I’m not in the swim of things.”
And she’s only 16 years old.
If all this means Nickelodeon won’t be calling with a contract any time soon, it hasn’t stopped this Auckland-based singer from becoming a bizarre new kind of teen idol.
To make matters more enticing, the final “e” in Lorde’s name isn’t pronounced, the better to render her God-like. Since the summer, the singer has taken over the world’s airwaves with her contrary smash “Royals.” It’s a protest song against pop culture itself, targeting the out-of-control opulence of hip-hop videos, as well as the more materialistic members of her own generation.
All this might sound self-righteous if Lorde weren’t redeemed by a certain cool. She has clearly fashioned her style after the queen of bone-dry detachment, Lana Del Ray. But while that strategy backfires for Del Ray, who ends up sounding like a zombie wanna-be, Lorde inhabits the part with both more conviction and better music.
Like Del Ray, Lorde makes uniformly slow, doomy and synth-drenched songs. But hers (co-written with producer Joel Little) benefits from some of the finer textures and subtle variations of ’90s trip-hop. Lorde (ne Ella Yelich-O’Connor) also has some of Adele’s rich timbre, even if she can’t be bothered to mimic her power.
She’s been fashioning verse since age 14, which likely contributed to her chutzpah, evidenced in both her blasphemous stage name and in the druggy play on words of her CD’s title. Together, they have carved out a rare role for Lorde as the training wheels answer to Debbie Downer.
Lorde plays Webster Hall Tuesday and Warsaw on Thursday.